Above is something we don’t see too often anymore, a hatbox. It is from a store we no longer have here in New England, Hartford’s grand and famous G. Fox & Company.
G. Fox holds a special place in the memory of its employees and especially its thousands upon thousands of customers. It was unique among many grand department stores which stood as flagships for thriving cities in that it never did branch out into the suburbs, not when it was operated by the Fox family. There were never any outlet or branch stores of G. Fox, just the one. It was among the first in New England to adopt progressive policies for the treatment of its employees, and was among the first to hire African-Americans in administrative positions.
It was also run by a single family, and during its golden period from the late 1930s to the mid-1960s, by a single remarkable woman.
Beatrice Fox Auerbach was the third generation of the Fox family to run the store. It had been founded by her grandfather Gershon Fox as a dry goods store in 1847 as I & G Fox. Hartford was a burgeoning city in the late 1800s. It more than thrived; it catapulted itself into one of the most prosperous and commercially energetic cities in the country.
G. Fox went from father to son, and then for a time, granddaughter Beatrice along with her husband George Auerbach joined the business. When Mr. Auerbach died in 1927, Beatrice ran the store equally with her father, Moses Fox. The store was now an 11-story Main Street building put up after a fire destroyed the prior building in 1917.
When her father died in 1938, Beatrice took the helm alone, and was responsible for guiding the business to its golden age. There were many expansions, renovations to the building, the adding of air conditioning, the application of Mrs. Auerbach’s elegant taste to the décor, and the addition of host of services to the customer including phone orders and home delivery.
Many recall eating at the luncheonette in the store, or the more grand tea room called The Connecticut Room with its murals of 19th century Connecticut. Her own farm in Bloomfield supplied produce and dairy products.
What Mrs. Auerbach displayed in her approach to her running of G. Fox was more than a willingness to reinvest in her business, but also an eagerness to invest in her community. Her interest in Hartford and her staunch support of the community was famous.
G. Fox was sold to the May Company in the late 1960s, and then closed in 1992. Its like may not be seen again.
A recent comment on the post from last year about Springfield’s Forbes and Wallace (see here) added a wonderful personal insight to the description of that store. I hope anyone who remembers working, or shopping, at G. Fox (lots of folks took the train north from the Connecticut shore and south from the Springfield, Mass. area just to shop at the store) will stop by with your memories. Memories are all we have now of G. Fox. We might as well dig them out and dust them off.
For more on G. Fox, have a look at this Connecticut Historical Society website.